As I gathered some of my things into a garbage bag, tears streamed down my cheeks. I tossed clothes, toiletry items, and Lucas’ favorite toy into that white plastic, makeshift tote and dragged it out to my car. I would normally use my nice garment bag to pack, but since my sister had borrowed it last week for a weekend getaway this was my only choice to get out of that house fast.
I stood on the front step, trying to slow my breathing. Just a glimpse of the air-filled reindeer and snowmen decorations that lined the street made my heart ache even more. The red and silver garlands that laced several mailboxes in the neighborhood along with the lighted, oversized candy-cane ornaments that trimmed our lawn reminded me of what a joyous time of the year it was. At least it should be.
When I looked into the back seat and met eyes with my baby who had no idea what Mommy was doing, my heart seemed to break into tiny little pieces.
“Are we going to the dump, Mama?” my precocious five-year-old asked with wide, inviting eyes. “I like going on the ride ‘cause it’s by Aunt Jasmine’s house!” he excitedly shouted.
Again, my heart seemed to split into even tinier pieces as I fought back my tears. I exhaled a deep breath and forced a smile for his sake. With a hand pressed against the rear window behind the driver seat where Lucas sat, leaning forward in his booster seat, I gripped the bag tighter with my other. Lucas pressed his little gloved hand opposite to where mine was and smiled endlessly. He has always been a bright spot in my life.
“Yes, baby, we’re going to go to Aunt Jasmine’s.” It was either that or have him watch me cry all day. Jasmine had agreed to take him to the park and a matinee while I got myself together in her spare bedroom. “And you know what; she’s got a day of fun planned for just the two of you!” I playfully touched the tip of his nose.
Lucas propelled his fists into the air and just when I thought his smile couldn’t get any bigger, it did. As he wiggled in his seat, doing his happy dance, I continued dragging the heavy bag to the tail of the vehicle. After I loaded it up, I lowered the door and stole another moment to myself.
How am I ever going to live this down? How could this be happening to me? What will people think?
My thoughts were severed by a honking horn. I looked up and watched as a neighbor backed out of her artificial snow trimmed driveway across the street. I smiled widely and waved my hand. She raised a hand and in seconds her car was gone. I adjusted my wide-lens sunglasses further up on my nose and hurriedly wiped the wetness from my flushed cheeks.
“Hey, did you want an ice cream cone?” I gazed at my handsome son who was a spitting image of his father. “I know how much you like vanilla.” I struggled to paint on a cheerful smile. Although the weather suggested we consume something warm, I just wanted my baby to be happy today … even if I wasn’t.
“Vanilla with sprinkles?” he cleverly asked.
“With sprinkles,” I clarified with a slight nod. After toggling the gear shift into reverse, I cautiously backed out of my driveway and started in the direction of the neighborhood creamery.
“Oh yes! This is the best day ever!”
I chuckled at his enthusiasm. Little things always made him happy. The innocence of a child is a precious gift from God unblemished by the world. Although they are likened to porous, talkative little sponges, absorbing so many things from their environment, both good and bad, they still have the innate ability to quickly forgive. It would be wonderful if I could say the same thing about some other people in my life.
When I had spanked Lucas for pouring his red, fruit punch inside of my new pair of pumps I had bought just days ago, only moments later with tears in his eyes did he outstretch his arms for me to embrace him. I later learned that he was imitating a practical joke he had seen on television where the characters in the show had laughed. I told him that pouring punch inside of my shoes was not funny and explained how his actions affected me. In all actuality, that ranting episode I had with him gave me a reason to not attend church tomorrow, the Sunday just before Christmas. The shoes that took me six stores and three weeks to find, on sale might I add, that paired perfectly with my outfit was in ruins. So … of course I couldn’t go.
The suit I had planned on wearing that hung in my closet was the last gift purchased by my husband. I remember the day he had hung it from one of the knobs on the dresser chest drawer. When I came home from a long, tedious day of work on the notoriously busy Black Friday and walked into the bedroom, there alongside that soft red, beaded jacket and delicately laced skirt suit was a card that had caught me off guard. It was different from all the others he had ever given me. He simply told me that our lives were going to change forever … again. He said again because a few years ago we had weathered a storm that no parent wants to ever endure. Although my faith was tried, I knew in my heart that God would not put more on us than we could bear.
Benjamin, Ben as I fondly call him, explained that he had to leave for work, but promised that we’d talk more about it later. I watched as he affectionately winked and blew a kiss in my direction before walking out the door. After settling into my favorite armchair and reading the card in its entirety, I found out exactly how much of a change he meant.
“Mommy, you passed the ice cream store!” Lucas screeched.
I flinched from my faraway thoughts and quickly slowed down to make the second entrance to Tom’s Ice Cream Hut. It was my son’s favorite place to go for ice cream. It was a shop that catered more to children than adults with a location just minutes away from two local elementary schools.
“I’m gonna get some ice cream, I’m gonna get some ice cream!” Lucas sung his playful tune as he unbuckled the belt to his seat.
I smiled at his enthusiasm. These were the times that I wished my baby, Gina, was here. She always wanted to have children ever since I could remember. Growing up, Gina would carry around her favorite doll with a red and white checkered dress and pretend to bottle-feed it for years. That was a toy that never got old to her. At least not until she was about seven years old. By that time she wanted to practice on the real thing when her younger brother, Kylon, was born.
Gina and Kylon both were the apples of Ben’s eye. He would always brag to others about having a complete set, a boy and a girl. Gina was Daddy’s little girl and Kylon was his little football, basketball, or track star in the making, depending upon which season it was. He truly enjoyed them as children and once they got older, Benjamin appreciated the young adults they had become.
I had played it over and over in my mind and the solution to my problem was always the same. The stigma would soon wear thin and all that’s happened over the past few weeks would be a distant memory. At five years old, there’s not much Lucas knows about the situation, so there’s not much he would remember.
“I want the chocolate bear bowl!” Lucas bolted to the refrigerated display case and pointed repeatedly at the picture of the colossal brownie treat dipped in chocolate perched atop a scoop of velvety ice cream in a waffle bowl. Just by looking at the display caused my hips to expand.
“But I thought you wanted the vanilla snow man … with sprinkles. Remember?” I reminded him while pointing at the poster board that showed a jolly snowman with plain brown M&Ms for eyes, miniature chocolate chips for the nose and mouth, an Oreo cookie as a stylish top hat, and a red licorice rope for a decorative scarf.
Lucas stared at the poster board and cheerfully bounced in place. “Oh yeah, the snowman!” Then he glanced back at the chocolate bear bowl photo with a mischievous grin. “Mommy, I want them both.”
“In your dreams.” I chuckled. He knew good and well that was not going to happen.
He offered a knowing smile and for a moment I had forgotten my problems, but only for a moment.
As Lucas and I sat at a table near one of the glass windows, sharing the chocolate treat he had settled on, my mind drifted back to the moment when my husband returned home from work the next morning after giving me that card when he said our lives were going to change forever … again.
He had been working the graveyard shift for several months and all of sudden he waltzed in the front door and announced that his job was promoting him to a different position. His smile could hardly be contained as he described that his pay was going to increase exponentially and we would finally have more of the finer things in life. Enough money to go around where we wouldn’t have to check the balances in our bank accounts before making a donation here and there, or a spontaneous weekend getaway. It was a relief for me to hear that because after he left the house the night before to go to work, I took a home pregnancy test and found out that I was pregnant. When I told him the news, it was not the reaction I was hoping to get from him.
“Mmm, this is good!”
My son drew my attention back on him. I had always wanted a sibling for him and since learning of Ben’s new promotion, I thought there was no better time to grow our family again. I never thought that I would have actually gotten pregnant since I had been on the pill for years, not to mention the other factors, but my now estranged husband assumed that I had planned it against his will. I had only missed one of my birth control pills and now I’m pregnant.
So, at the age of forty-seven I would have never guessed in a million years that I’d be traveling this road again; at least not becoming a biological mother again. It was challenging enough to take on the responsibility of raising a one-year-old after my daughter and her husband met an unexpected demise, but it’s something totally different to carry a child and start the process all over again.
I love children, well, we both do, but with other responsibilities on our plates, this was the last thing we needed in our lives right now.
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